By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
Aaron: As we’ve come to the end of the series about Dylan’s favorite songs (the last episode being here, with an index to the full series) I put my thinking cap on to come up with something else we could do.
And I thought a nice way to piggy back off that series would be to look at songs that were inspired by Dylan. Hence I came up with this series which I have called Dylanesque (I stole the title from the Bryan Ferry album). Sometimes the songs will be ones we know and love and others will be new.
In fact, there is even a Wikipedia page devoted to the term Dylanesque and it describes it as:
Dylanesque (comparative more Dylanesque, superlative most Dylanesque)
- In the style of, or reminiscent of the music or lyrics of Bob Dylan (born 1941).
So I thought we could do the usual format: I will find a couple of songs that I feel were inspired by Dylan and send them over to you for your comments. Does that sound good?
Tony: Absolutely. I know I’ll enjoy it, and I am hopeful that some of the three quarters of a million or so visits we get each year on the site will be directed to reading it. And might I also extend a thought to everyone who ever takes a look at Untold Dylan – if you have an article, or just an idea for an article, and you think it might fit in with Untold, please do send in your thoughts to Tony@schools.co.uk
Aaron: OK, then let’s begin!
Here are a couple of songs I always got a Desolation Row vibe from… what do you think?
First is Joe Strummer with Ramshackle Day Parade from his 2003 posthumous album Streetcore
Tony: As I understand this is a song about or perhaps I should say, a remembrance of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001; he was one of the original members of the Clash, and as such one of the heroes of my pal who I go to football matches with and indeed who I spent much of yesterday with.
I read a comment that said that the lyrics don’t point the blame at anyone; no one knows or can say how it has all gone wrong, but it all has. And that feels right to me…
The lyrics start
Muffle the drums The hope of a new century comes Was it all the amphetamine presidents And their busy wives Or did Manhattan crumble The day Marlyn died
So while Dylan takes a single graphic image (postcards of the hanging) and (most certainly on the original recording) a very gentle relaxed musical style in contrast to the lyrics, Strummer uses multiple images and music that at times seems to strive to represent the chaos and catastrophe of everything.
Yet to my mind (and as ever of course this is just me) the images that Dylan utilises have an extra strength somehow. “And the riot squad they’re restless, they need somewhere to go,” sung in such a gentle non-rioting way, always signifies to me that once the state creates the mechanisms of repression it has to use them, but also try to keep them under cover – which I think is absolutely true.
But I find
Bring out the banners of Stalingrad Here come the marching band
much more confusing. And because the music at times seems to be falling over itself (which is of course an excellent notion if the music is to represent September 11) it becomes too much for me to take. Dylan, by making the music so simple, allows me to feel the horrors of what was happening in the story he re-tells. I don’t find that so much with the Clash.
Aaron: Next we have Dan Bern with Thanksgiving Day Parade from has 2001 album “New American Language.”
Tony: Technical note – it is one of those links which works for Aaron in the USA, but not for me in the UK. I’ve added a second link below that works for me – hopefully one of these will work for you.
Tony (continuing): And I am overwhelmed. Just as I was when you presented us with “Lawyers, guns and money”. This is just such overwhelming fun, in the sense that it presents everything that can happen at a party, in a parade, in a holiday celebration, in everything, it can all just explode in this colourful overwhelming adventure of ideas, sounds, people, places…
As I have often mentioned my response to music is a mix of pure emotion (in which the sound knocks me out even before I know anything of the lyrics), plus then either the meaning or the fun of the words, and then finally the music, in which I often go in my own direction, having worked as a musician in the early part of my life.
And because this is a combination of various emotional rather than logical responses, it is often hard to understand and hard to express verbally. And my responses are always related to where I am emotionally as I listen.
Now today (the morning of a public holiday in England) I’m still on a high because yesterday I drove to London (about 80 miles from my home) to the house of my best pal, and from there we went to our favourite pub and then on to watch the football team we both support. The team won magnificently, it was the last game of the season and there was an overwhelming outpouring of emotion from the crowd of 60,000. not least when the coach came onto the pitch at the end and made a speech thanking us all for our support.
So I am still buzzing from that day out, and now I get to hear this song which I didn’t know, and which relates to yesterday, and to going to the Isle of Wight concert in my youth, all at once.
I don’t know if this is great music and I have my doubts about some of the lyrics, but it is above everything overwhelming fun, on the morning after a day of overwhelming fun. I can only hope that you, dear reader, will be able to join in the fun at bit as well.
The link with Desolation Row of course is the chaos, but here the chaos is being celebrated. But song appreciation is also always personal, and I’m suddenly jerked out of just bouncing along and enjoying the piece when I hear
And we slowly started dancing
And began slowly to heal
And if you have read my ramblings across the years you may have picked up somewhere that even at my advanced age I still indulge in my lifelong hobby of jiving (although these days it is modern jive, which is safer for us oldies, and more like swing), and I am out five nights a week dancing away – as a way of overcoming a day spent typing away on the computer.
But I guess this is my point: responses to music and lyrics are personal. No one can outdo Dylan’s “Desolation Row” but here we have two approaches to the same subject: one is harsh and focuses on the horrors, one is fun, and says even in a world such as this where such awful things happen, we can, and indeed I think we must, on occasion find ways to release and let go. And today, after a great day out with my pal, that’s where I want to be.
I’m going to publish all the lyrics, because I think if you like the music, you’ll enjoy it even more next time through with the words made a little clearer.
Everybody was ecstatic ‘Bout the light show on the farm And everyone got crazy And nobody got harmed And the five televisions Huge upon the stage Had come to pay their union dues And make a living wage And the bathroom was the clubhouse Where the colors all got made And plans were cast in feathers For the Thanksgiving Day Parade And the DJ spins his records From here out to the sun And he flings them through a big hole In the ozone one by one And somewhere beyond Mercury The wax begins to melt And we touched a perfect stranger And we loved the way it felt And we all hung together In our crew cuts and our braids Floating down Broadway Above the Thanksgiving Day Parade And you and I were discussing Natalie As you poised to thrust above her And I told you how I admire her And will always need to love her But I told you how I lost My best friend Mr. Neill And we slowly started dancing And began slowly to heal And then we all held hands And no one was afraid On our way to sell our sculptures At the Thanksgiving Day Parade And Michelangelo finally came down After 4 years on the ceiling He said he’d lost his funding And the paint had started peeling And he told us that his patron His Holiness, the Pope Was demanding productivity With which our friend just couldn’t cope And he rode off on his skateboard With his brushes and his blade Muttering something ’bout some food And the Thanksgiving Day Parade And we who were born in one millennium And will die in the next Are slightly underappreciated And slightly oversexed And as the seconds and the minutes Start to vanish one by one I’m watching more cartoons As I get my toenails done And we went downtown to deliver Turkeys to people with AIDS And then we headed uptown To the Thanksgiving Day Parade And the music keeps on grinding And the electrophonic crunch And my father’s hair is thinning And my mom ate some for lunch And you, you were my babysitter And you let me break my tooth And we sit here tied together In a bar in the back booth And the band is in an uproar Only the drum machine’s been paid And we’ll have to bring our own tunes To the Thanksgiving Day Parade Australians are the coolest People in the world Let’s all go down under With strings of colored pearls And lay them at the feet Of the heirs of English crime And listen to old Men At Work And have a real good time And we dug until we hit the rocks Then we threw away the spade And built a platform to get a better view Of the Thanksgiving Day Parade And I love whoever’s next to me I love them so, so much They let me lean against them Like a beautiful crutch And everyone should come up On the stage and grab the mike And tell us one by one Who they are and what they like And the babies are the only ones To have lately gotten laid And I’m feeling young and eager For the Thanksgiving Day Parade And you explained to me that without your fans You’d be back out on the street With nothing but chitlins on your plate And splinters in your feet And if you die, you’re gone you said And your friends are left behind And you’ll be a statistic And we’ll be deaf and blind And darkness is a virtue And molasses is not afraid To slow down the countdown To the Thanksgiving Day Parade And somewhere in the distance An orchestra shows its face With Natalie on the oboe Ty on double bass John plays the viola Slik the tenor sax James he blows harmonica In vanilla skintight slacks Hugo oozes alto sax Ivory the trombone Masuda squawks the trumpet Andre xylophone Ron he shreds the violin In a green Italian suit Mike talks on the telephone On a tape with an endless loop Geoff he blows the clarinet With an old-time rockin’ feel Charlie dings the triangle Dave the glockenspiel Chris puffs on the tuba H a big bass drum Alfonso throbs the cello Like he would a woman, with his thumb And high up on the podium In tails with his baton poised Banksy leads the orchestra In a glorious, awful noise And on a float of dripping oil paint The orchestra, it played Kissing the whole universe In the Thanksgiving Day Parade And life is like a fairy tale Every step feels like a dream That keeps on getting nearer And more and more extreme And we just got switched with Venus And we’re closer to the sun And I got no problem with it Nor should anyone And the cops just blew on in here And we’re in some kind of raid I just hope they will release us For the Thanksgiving Day Parade
If you have enjoyed this song one tenth as much as I have while writing this, then, just take care as you come down from the ceiling.